Oklahoma! came roaring in with an effervescence that shows running almost 75 years usually run out of after a decade or so.
Not this “Oklahoma!” The Broadway by the Bay production holds its own to any New York touring company with great direction, voices, actors and orchestra that fit this wonderful show.
Oklahoma! opened on Broadway on March 31, 1943. It was the beginning of the true theatrical musical, setting the pattern for the musical theatre we enjoy today. You could not be the producer’s girlfriend to get a part in this one—you had to really dance, act and sing. The original had an incomparable cast with Alfred Drake as Curley, Joan Roberts as Laurie, Howard de Silva as Jud and Celeste Holm as Ado Annie, who delivered the lovely, amazing score of Rogers and Hammerstein that includes standards we still hear today.
A revamped Oklahoma! still has freshness and charm. Its music is still easily recognizable. “People Will Say We’re in Love,” “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top,” “I Can’t Say No,” “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning” and “Oklahoma!” are standards to the musical theater aficionado.
When the producers of the Theatre Guild in New York started production on a long shot show called Away We Go! they were the only ones who felt they had a hit. After all, the score was composed by operetta lyricist Oscar Hammerstein, and musical comedy composer Richard Rogers. A Russian ballerina and choreographer, Agnes de Mille, with an Armenian director from Hollywood, combined this with a corny, clean-cut story taken from a folk play by Lynn Tiggss called Green Grow The Lilacs. Those connected with the production (other than producers Helburn and Langner) did not hold out much hope for a hit.
The gods must have smiled on this sweet, delightful story that made musical theatre history. Opening as Oklahoma! (a last-minute name change) on Broadway on a stormy
March night, it ran on for an unprecedented five and a half years. The show broke all records and won many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for drama.
Broadway by the Bay’s production features Sam Faustine as a great romantic Curly, who sings with perfect pitch; Jennifer Mitchell as the delightful Laurey adds a well-trained super voice to her role; Erin Yvette, a sassy Ado Annie, brings charm and delight; John Melis as Jud supplies a fine musical foreboding tone to the plot.
The entire cast is solid and strong with director Joshua Marx and conductor Sean Kana and his fine 16-piece orchestra bringing the production together for a beautiful offering of an old chestnut that shines through the years with a magnificent glow.
Contact Camille Bounds at [email protected]
Fox Theatre, 2215 Broadway St, Redwood City
Performances through June 25
Tickets and reservations: (650) 579-5565 or visit broadwaybythe bay.org.